The new kid on the block wants to claim a Syracuse favorite as its own.
The Beer Belly Deli & Pub, which opened around Halloween on Westcott Street, in Syracuse, puts a new spin on a Syracuse staple: the salt potato.
The restaurant takes several liberties with the sacred dish, traditionally served with butter and boiled in briny water that contains so much salt the blood pressure spikes upon first bite.
The Beer Belly offers three variations of the spuds: their version of the original ($4), served with soup ($4), or any number of flavors of the day ($5).
It's a brave undertaking to make changes to a Syracuse icon. Perhaps because the deli skews younger, its hope is that patrons are willing to trade butter for garlic and shallot oil: the Beer Belly interpretation of the virgin salt potato.
I could make the shift to the oil. The flavor was balanced and added a unique twist with the shallots. But when the salt shaker has to be used on a dish that already has salt in the name, it's a problem.
Maybe the chef forgot the proper salt-to-water ratio that evening. Or maybe the Beer Belly staff has a vested interest in preventing hypertension. (Based on the prominence of candied bacon on the menu, I'd say not.) Regardless, the original salt potatoes lacked the salt-lick factor. Or even a resemblance to Hinerwadel's recipe.
The other two variations made up for the lackluster original. The potatoes covered in soup - specifically the cheddar and Pabst Blue Ribbon soup with potatoes and ham - were delicious. The potatoes of the day, served with beef gravy and Swiss cheese, were also enough for a small meal or a hearty appetizer. In both cases, the added flavors blended well with the potato base and successfully strayed from the old stand-by.
The Beer Belly experiments well. The salt potatoes are just the beginning of its pub fare and, if experience is worth anything, the rest of the menu promises to be flavorful. So long as the salt stays on the table, just in case.